Thursday, November 17, 2016


I continue my run through of Black Mirror with Fifteen Million Merits, an episode set in a future where humanity is obsessed with entertainment... So our current world. Joking aside, this is another fascinating episode of the show, while parts of it felt a bit long, as well as unnecessary, I can't say I didn't enjoy this one. In fact this one may be better than the last episode.

So we begin this time with Bing Madsen (Daniel Kaluuya), a man of this future, awaking within a room that features nothing but videos, even ads play (much to Bing's annoyance), which can only be skipped by using up someone's own merits (the currency of this world), it's strange. Bing has the luxury of skipping these ads though, having acquired over 15 million merits, he can waste as much as he pleases, in this case, that's avoiding ads, largely ones that are quite reminiscent of "Brazzers". Suddenly, he meets with a girl named Abi (Jessica Brown Findlay) who sings beautifully, Bing encourages her to join a competition show named Hot Shots, as he feels nothing is more "real" than her talent. Unfortunately for the two, Hot Shots turns out to be more than a simple show, it's actually something more sinister.

As the episode came to an end, I felt there were similarities here to something like The Hunger Games, partially because of the whole future competition aspect, but also how the class systems are set up. Sure none of it is particularly deadly, but the focus on entertainment being the height of society, while those below that either power the world, or are treated as slaves for amusement (in this world the overweight are second class citizens), in either case, I found myself thinking of The Hunger Games quite a lot, but impressed by how much better this handled the concept. Without spoiling anything, as the episode progresses, I found myself genuinely surprised by how much this episode plays so much against what's expected of dystopian tales. By the end we come out feeling darker, more hopeless about the world we witness, yet the choices made makes sense, however wrong we may feel it is, they make sense within the episode, leaving this to be a well crafted cautionary tale of where we may be headed.
This is by all means, one of the more unique visions of the future I've seen in a while, yes at first glance the emphasis on technology, a lack of vibrant colors and an entertainment worshipping society feels like nothing new, but the way it is handled here is fresh all things considered, I almost wish to experience it for a day. The biggest thing that makes this stand out? The lack of corruption. Sure, you may think it's there, after all there are some sinister elements to how the world works, but none of it screams corruption, or conspiracy, beyond maybe a drink named "cuppliance", but even that doesn't scream conspiracy by much. No, this is a world that may be a bit crappy, but there really doesn't seem to be a government to rise up against for any particular reason beyond "I don't like it", they don't force others to be in entertainment, most choose it, to a certain extent anyway. The worst offense here really seems to be treating the overweight as a joke, but even that doesn't go too far, this is a dystopia that is a dystopia because it has a shallow view on worth, that's it, which makes it feel pretty unique.

I'll admit there are some shortcomings here, namely in the supporting cast, none of the actors are bad, but there's really not much use for the other characters we meet in Bing's work area, sure they help illustrate the awfulness of the world, but they slow down what already is a well told story. I also couldn't help but feel the episode's focus on Abi midway through felt a bit odd, I get why it's there, but what feels like build up to a story challenging how we perceive women in entertainment, plays more like an odd tacked on moment for our lead to see how bad the world is, just enough for him to try and take a stand. It all could've been handled better. Still I do find the strengths to cover that up for the most part.

Fifteen Million Merits is another strong entry in Black Mirror. While a shorter run time might've helped this episode, I feel it's themes and overall message are strong enough to make this a better entry than the last episode. Another episode recommended as I run through this, show stay tuned for the season one finale.

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Written By Octaviano Macias

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